By her handwritten productions, she deprived a primarily male corps of its copyright on what constitutes serious poetic technique. As critics like David Porter acknowledge, when Dickinson refused the world of print for showcasing her poetry, she ensured herself a particular some may prefer peculiar sort of autonomy, for "printed versions of the [Dickinson] poems necessarily recreate the figure of the artist" and her poetic objectives.
From this position, Dickinson could afford to complain about editorial intervention because she did not have to fret or agonize about her earning power, and she did not choose to worry about or prove that she could pay her way. Surely the closest opportunity she had to observe a woman supporting herself was her sister-in-law Sue teaching school in Baltimore.
To say the least, Sue's was not the most joyous foray a woman could make into the world of work. For whatever reason-to protect her privacy or autonomy-Dickinson did not tame her odd ways and set conventional publication as her primary goal.
Though she saw her poems printed in newspapers, Civil War publications like Drum Beat , and the anthology A Masque of Poets in which "Success is counted sweetest," attributed by many to Emerson, appeared , Dickinson was not published like Fern, Elizabeth Oakes-Smith, Lydia Sigourney, Frances Osgood, or other nineteenth-century women writers in volumes widely read among the middle and upper classes.
That Dickinson continued to write though she did not produce books for mass distribution meant that everything, including her "typeface," was handmade. Over the many years of this cottage-industry literary production, her experimentation with the rhetorical notation that she learned at school gradually expanded to include other types of poetic experimentation with visual representation. While others shaped their subject matter and poetic forms and, like the early nineteenth-century American poet Sally Hastings, even their complaints about convention-bound critics 25 to fit what editors of publishing houses would support, Dickinson continued to produce many works that did not conform to print standards.
Writing in and from this place Emerson christened "the Portfolio," 26 Dickinson developed a poetics in very different ways from her peers who wrote with the printing press and with pleasing editors, reviewers, and the nineteenth-century American consumer in mind. In fact, these developments are so unusual that it is a commonplace to say, as has Sharon Cameron quite recently, that there are no "changes in the style of the poems" and that "there is no development" in the Dickinson "canon," for "the experiences recorded by these poems are insular ones, subject to endless.
Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the same poem of pain or loss keeps writing itself over and over. Similarly, representing a document's context, Thomas Johnson regarded chronology as more important than audience, and, representing textual "facts," did not regard her holograph forms as meaningful parts of the poems. About variant versions of "A Death blow - is a Life blow - to Some -" he remarks that "the text of all these is identical; differences are in form only," as if the same instructions for reading would be conveyed by different arrangements P n. His horizon of expectations, created by study of lyrics as printed objects, does not enable Johnson to see changes in holograph lineation and punctuation as deliberate, but only as "accidents" of handwritten manuscripts.
One familiar with the printed representations, from those of Higginson-Todd-Bingham and Dickinson-Bianchi-Hampson to those of Thomas Johnson, would probably be inclined to agree with these interpretations. Yet scrutiny of her chirography alone tends to modify views of Dickinson's poetic evolutions, however unusual or trivial some variations may initially appear to eyes trained to study typeface.
In Franklin's Manuscript Books Sets , one can see that by the s Dickinson was spacing her letters and shaping them much more dramatically than she had in her early fascicles of the late s and s.
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As Susan Howe reminds us, if one carefully examines just these later documents, one "will see what gets lost in any typeface. In typography's mirror of production, words reflect only the shadow of their inception. Shapes and letters pun on and play with each other. Messages are delivered by marks. All redundancies are cut away to recover the innocence of the eye. Other stories told about these alterations have simply assumed that Dickinson's holograph "naturally" changed over the years, and thus these variations have nothing to do with her poetic endeavors.
Though her holograph undoubtedly matured, I contend that the diversifications in her script signify more than unwitting or "natural" evolutions: they indicate intentional changes in holograph design. The majority of her surviving documents is prepared for Dickinson's style of "publication. In these, the handwriting exhibits the exaggerated, apparently deliberate characteristics Howe describes. But besides those documents mailed or bound or organized into sets are drafts-some on scraps of paper, backs of grocery lists, even backs of recipes, and a few on fine stationery.
In the drafts and scraps, her handwriting is not so dramatic and looks like that of Franklin's second "Master" letter, which he dates "early " ML The first story to explain this is of course that all of those scraps, then, were written earlier than the documents produced in the extraordinary hand indicating Dickinson's later productions see P, facsimiles between xlviii-xlix.
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Yet a draft of a letter said to be to Judge Otis P. Lord and dated in the s also looks like the more casual handwriting of the second "Master" letter of and that of the scraps, while its fair copy looks like documents dated in the mids or even early s see Revelation for facsimiles of A , A , L Since they are a draft and fair copy of the same letter, one logically concludes that they were written at the same time. Thus the differences in handwriting indicate that Dickinson had a casual hand for scripting drafts, as well as what one might call a "performance script," a more stylized holograph for "publication.
So far I have reviewed some ways in which Dickinson's mode of production shaped the physical details of her performances.
Implicit in this story is recognition that Dickinson began to challenge the fetters of the printed form. Because no conventional mode of typesetting can ever adequately reproduce their visual nuances, by the fact of their very existence, her literary productions disrupt, even contest, orders established and fixed by the printing press. So to prepare to row in Eden and read her anew, more detailed consideration of how the mechanical modes of production have for the past century shaped reception and editing of her writings is crucial, In the capitalistic world of publication in America, editors often do not want merely to justify but want to make a profit from manufacturing multiple copies of a work.
As we saw in the first chapter, Dickinson's earliest editors tailored certain of her poems to make them more palatable to a larger audience.
In the case of "A solemn thing - it was -" F 14; P ,. Examples of editorial changes also remind us that recovery of intentions is circumscribed by an editor's horizon of expectations. When Higginson prepared "Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple" in the early s for a place in the second volume they produced, he wrote Loomis Todd: "I have combined the two 'Juggler of Day' poems, using the otter's window of course oriel!!
His reference to "oriel!! Cowan, from memory of a copy given him by Sue another version with the same word choice had also been printed during Dickinson's lifetime in the Springfield Daily Republican on March 30, Having labeled the most likely source of the variant the author "Wayward" L , "spasmodic," and "uncontrolled" L three decades before, Higginson appears to regard "oriel's" a preposterous alternative and indicates as much with his exclamation point and prepositional phrase "of course. Yet as the conclusion of his statement makes plain, his expectations are most shaped by preconceptions of what is "proper.
The stock character-virgin recluse poet-shapes even the relatively liberal Higginson's image of Dickinson and his views of what she meant. One does not need to know that geography, especially the sea, provides Dickinson with metaphors for her landscape of the heart, and that ships were often her vessel of choice when she needed a symbol for the individuals populating her poems about the affections, to see that "Wild Night's" imagery is explicitly sexual.
There is no record of this having been sent to any, but it is obvious why no correspondent of hers would have readily identified him or herself as the recipient of such erotic lyric. Neither is evidence that Higginson would apprehensively deny Dickinson's sexuality at all surprising. But Higginson and Loomis Todd's reproduction of the poem evinces that his perception was circumscribed by conventional poetic form as well as by preconceptions about the proper spinster.
Rowing in Eden! Might I but moor To-night in thee! Though he says that they should change her word "as little as possible," Higginson gave his nod to this sanitized version of "Wild Nights.
When Wylder published a photograph of "Wild Nights" in , her argument overlooked lineation and drew reader's attentions to the dashes LF first photostat. But as well as some unusual punctuation, Dickinson's version H 38; F 11 bears an eye-catching stanza of five lines, not the predictable four see Figure I. Erased from any typescript reproduction, which levels the effects of letters, is Dickinson's extraordinary, somewhat seductive, calligraphy-the wide-mouthed W , the triangular T at the beginning of the sixth line, and the stunning flourish that crosses both T 's in "Tonight.
Conforming to notions of proper poetic form may have been the. Conceptions of what she could have intended continued to limit editorial praxis throughout the first century of translating her holograph works to print. Like Higginson and Loomis Todd, Thomas Johnson does not consider that Dickinson may have intentionally produced a five-line final stanza when he observes that in the earlier editors' version, "the last word of line 11 is arranged as the first of line 12" P n.
The idea of a regular four-line stanza dictates the perceptions of these editors. Viewing the Amherst poet's lyric through such a lens has become fairly routine, for, as most anthology headnotes acknowledge, Emily Dickinson's appropriation of the hymn stanza has often been discussed. One of the many ways in which the understanding of the first reader has been elaborated in a chain of receptions from critic to critic, this critical commonplace about Dickinson's form can mediate perceptions of her poetics to such an extent that editors sometimes cannot see more radical experimentations.
In this variant Dickinson's poem is not divided into three discrete stanzas of four regular lines each. Instead, she uses the staggered placement of words on sixteen lines to arrest the reader's attention and slow down the process of perusal to a halting pace. In turn, this enables more careful examination of that which could have been rendered in the most standardized form to encourage new, unpredictable ways of reading another, much more conventional, twelve-line version of this poem is bound into the fascicles; see F By doing so, the thrice-repeated clause "I reason" and the query "But, what of that?
This version, with its underlinings and dramatic placement of the solitary syllable " die -" on a line by itself, seems bitingly sarcastic, while the tone of the more traditionally formulated version is much more muted. Implicitly, this and that regularized twelve-line fascicle version critique one another. Some readers may determine the more unusually lineated copy overdone and, judging them to be more masterful in ironic understatement, prefer conventional lineation and even rhythms for this bold speculation.
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But the gist of both versions is finally to declare "What does it matter that I reason? Her strategies are so novel that the reader attends to every detail, noticing that by this version's end the question " what of that! Yet when Johnson reproduces this version, he obscures Dickinson's extraordinary play with lineation by dividing the poem into three stanzas and printing " die -" as if it is on the same line as "We should.
Thomas Tanselle has observed, questions of authorial intention reflect "legitimate interest in the minds of individual authors as well as in the collaborative physical products of printers and publishers," yet "the texts we encounter in printed or manuscript documents can only be instructions for re-creating works, not the works themselves the medium of literature being language, not paper and ink.
But to peruse these documents to learn what they may disclose of Dickinson's poetic mind at work meets with much happier results.